Ohio artist restores religious statues, stirs memories of closed parishes

St. Elizabeth of Hungary stands tall, the bread in her right hand, a gift to the poor, looks like it may have just come from the oven. The roses at her waist, visible from an opening in her cloak, are a symbol of God’s protection.

The saint as depicted by a 19th-century sculptor has plenty of other companions. There is St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus, St. Stanislaus, the martyred bishop of Poland, and St. Sebastian with arrows piercing his body, seemingly just recently.

The statues are among dozens that have been carefully restored by Lou McClung, a professional artist, who has made it his vocation — and avocation — to preserve artifacts from closed churches in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere. He displays them in what is now a 7-year-old venture called the Museum of Divine Statues.

The museum is housed in the former St. Hedwig Church, which served Poles in this west side, inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. McClung opened the museum six years ago with a small number of statues and artifacts. It has burgeoned to a thoughtfully designed exhibition space with more than 200 artifacts that include reliquaries, crucifixes, a monstrance from Germany and stained-glass windows.

McClung told Catholic News Service he is driven by the desire to keep some of the artifacts from closed parishes from being forgotten or sold to far-off churches. Along the way he hopes visitors can enjoy and learn from them. [More]


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